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School District Five Robotics team places among top 10 in Regional competition

For Immediate Release – March 14, 2019



School District Five Robotics places 10th in Regional Competition


IRMO – The Pandamaniacs, a FIRST Robotics Competition team comprised of 21 students from ninth to twelfth grade from Irmo, Dutch Fork, and Spring Hill high schools, recently had the best performance in their 16 seasons at the Palmetto Region FIRST competition.


The team and its 100-pound robot, named Spirit of Opportunity, finished with a 7-2 record and as the #10 seed out of 64 teams from as far away as Oklahoma and New York.


In the 3-on-3 playoff tournament, the team captained the 7th-seeded alliance alongside drafted partners the Robotichauns from Knoxville, TN and the Hostile Gato Robotics from Fort Gibson, OK. The alliance came within inches of upsetting the 2nd-seeded alliance, losing its best-of-three quarterfinal round against record high scores.


School District Five student Emma Bassett said of her experience at the Palmetto Region FIRST competition, “It was an amazing opportunity because it really reflects how much the team has grown since I joined three years ago. It has always been about the experience for us, the family and community the team forms, we've never competed to necessarily win. However, since we have a taste of what it's like now we are definitely going to try our hardest at the next regional competition.”


The district robotics team is currently housed at Irmo High School International School for the Arts as an extracurricular activity group led by AP and Honors Physics teacher, Matthew Hedden.


Hedden said, “The team allows students to put their science and engineering knowledge to use in a real-world situation while working toward a common goal.  We were extremely excited about our performance in Myrtle Beach; it’s the first time we have captained a three-team alliance in the playoffs, although we've gone farther into playoffs as another team’s pick in 2010 and 2011.”


This year, the FIRST Competition game is called DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE and presented by The Boeing Company. The competition is described as “two alliances of deep space travelers race to place hatch panels on their rockets and cargo ship, load valuable cargo for transport off the planet and return to the safety of their habitat, all before the next stand storm sweeps through”. Each alliance has two rockets, one cargo ship and a habitat. Points are earned for exiting the habitat, securing hatch panels and cargo properly stored.


“Part of the magic of the FIRST Robotics Competition is students working alongside mentors as partners.  We have students performing all the tasks that are safe for them to do, including fabrication, maintenance, and driving on the field, while the mentors and team alumni guide and share their field experience with students,” said Hedden.


Bassett added, “I came to my first meeting my freshman year because my friend Cameron wanted someone to go with, and I fell in love immediately and just kept coming back. Being a member of this team has taught me a lot of valuable skills, but mainly what it is like to truly be a part of team and the communication, leadership, and organizational skills that come with that responsibility.”


Build and competition season is from January through March. Students have approximately six weeks to design and build the robot in preparation for competition. During this time, the team meets up to four times a week.


This year, the Pandamaniacs will compete in two regionals and co-host an off-season competition with another local team. The next competition is the Smoky Mountains Regional at the University of Tennessee at the end of March. The event will be live streamed online at FRC Events.


The team is provided generous financial support by sponsors Schneider Electric, Underwriters Laboratories, and Bluefish Mill, making it possible for the team to attend multiple competitions and add new technologies to the robot.  Underwriters Laboratories provides a mentor that helps to refine safety practices within the team and Bluefish Mill assists with precision-machined parts for the robot, speeding up the building process and enabling the team to build a more reliable and robust design.


Founded in 1989 and based in Manchester, NH, FIRST is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.


The mission of FIRST® is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.


The global reach of the FIRST program is projected to reach more than 615,000 students in over 100 countries this year. The FIRST Scholarship program provides over $80 million in college scholarships through nearly 200 providers. Visit to learn more.